The junior high school I attended was situated near two ravines, both with bridges crossing them. A noon-hour pastime in the warmer weather was to hang out on the bridge over the closest of the two ravines. One day, several of my classmates were witness to a near-tragedy in that very location. A distraught man leapt from that bridge, plunging in the ravine below. Fortunately, the man survived and help was on the scene, but what a story it made when these kids got back to the school.
Then came the afternoon announcements. “We understand that several of you saw something disturbing over the noon hour,” came the principal’s deep and serious voice over the intercom. “We ask that you refrain from talking about it.”
That afternoon, groups of us marched past the office shouting the question, “You mean, you don’t want us talking about the guy who jumped off the bridge?” It was an act of defiance; and act to showcase just how ridiculous the administration of that school was acting that day.
Instead of using that incident as a springboard to launch discussions about suicide, depression, and other related topics in the classrooms that day, the school decided to try to shut up a bunch of curious, inquisitive, incredulous 12, 13, and 14 year olds. Those who were on the bridge saw something that opened their eyes to the wider world just a little bit more. Another bit of childhood innocence was chiseled away. Those of us who weren’t there, wished we were – and we wanted to hear all about it.
Almost two decades have passed since the day the school tried to get us to shut up about something that was neither the result of any wrongdoing on our parts, nor caused endangerment to students, teachers, or school property. I can still recall the incident like it was yesterday. Forcing people to forget by putting a gag on further discussion has the opposite effect.
The Soapbox is a trench publication for those on the front who fight for the Lost, the Last and the Least. From August 2006.